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Game mechanics and game dynamics

Game mechanics, which are the building blocks of gamification, are the rules and rewards that make up game play and create an engaging experience.

What are game mechanics?

The essence of gamification is the application of game mechanics to “gamify” an activity. Game mechanics are the rules and rewards that build the foundation of game play. When strategically and tactically deployed in accord with game dynamics, it makes gamification challenging, fun and rewarding.

We've identified the following ten primary game mechanics, which make the foundation of gamification:


Points can be used to indicate status, identify high priority activities or, in some examples, used to purchase real or virtual goods. Game Dynamics associated with Points include Achievement and Progress (emotional). Users want to feel rewarded and Points can help users keep score.


Levels show how users reach a milestone, program status, or areas of accomplishment. This can also show long-term or sustained achievement within the gamification program. Levels within game mechanics taps into the human desires/motivations (Game Dynamics) of Competition, Collection, Achievement, and Progress (emotional).


Missions provide objectives for users to accomplish as a team or as an individual. Once the mission is completed (or challenge overcome), users may feel a sense of accomplishment. Game Dynamics that often work with Missions include Competition, Community, Achievement, Surprise, and Exploration.


Badges are used to demonstrate mastery over important tasks and goals. These visual indicators of accomplishment can also communicate skill or expertise within a group. Game Dynamics associated with Badges include: Community, Collection, Achievement, Surprise, Progress (emotional), Exploration


Many gamification deployments will feature a “high-score table” which is also defined as a Leaderboard to show how users/teams are progressing against each other. As an example, a team/individual leading in gamification can inspire the team/individual to remain at the top. Or a leaderboard could trigger more competition among another team/individual to displace the current leader. Key Game Dynamics associated with Leaderboards include: Competition, Collaboration, Community, Achievement.


Unlocks are used in unlocking missions or challenges. As an example, a user must complete A (mission, task, challenge, etc.), which will then unlock B, C, and D. The Unlocks game mechanic can be deployed with quizzes, activities, and missions containing badges where there is a determined linear progression. Game Dynamics associated: Achievement, Surprise, Exploration.

Events Feed

This game mechanic enables users to see how everybody else in the gamification is doing; for example, a user may read on the Events Feed that a colleague has completed a mission and progressed to the next level. Events Feed can be used to motivate other users to do certain actions so their progress could be broadcasted on the Events Feed to others. Game Dynamics associated: Exploration, Competition, Collaboration, Community, Progress (emotional).


The Quiz game mechanics allows users to test their knowledge and in doing so, this can be in conjunction with many other game mechanics to help move the user through the gamification program.

Visual Progress

A visualization of Progress shows users where they are in completing missions, challenges and in the overall Gamification user journey. Game Dynamics associated: Achievement, Progress (emotional).

What are game dynamics?

Game dynamics refer to a set of emotions, behaviors and desires found in game mechanics that resonate with people and are used with game mechanics to foster engagement and motivate participants.

Examples of game dynamics include:

  • Competition
  • Collaboration
  • Community
  • Collection
  • Achievement
  • Surprise
  • Progress (emotional)
  • Exploration

These emotions are the compelling desires and motivation that trigger behavior economics and intrinsic motivation. Overall, these emotions are the motivations that not only define, but propel Game Dynamics.

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